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HP’s first Ultrabook, the HP Folio 13 | Hands On!

HP’s first ultrabook, the HP Folio 13, is now available locally. Launched at the Intercon Manila last March 15, 2012, you won’t do the Folio 13 justice by staring at its pictures or by ogling how it mimics the MacBook Air from afar. Up close and hard-gripping tactile is how’s it’s done.

Don’t be misled by reviews saying it’s among the thickest ultrabooks out right now: it’s really light and solid to the feel. The HP ad looping on the big screen at the stage during the launch had a lady carrying the open Folio as she walked around the kitchen – I thought that was lame until I picked up the Folio, closed it, weighed it with one hand, and fell in love. This is a notebook – sorry, ultrabook – you want to keep touching. I don’t feel that way towards any of the Windows laptops I have at home.

Tough Lid, Sure-Grip Bottom

The brushed aluminum lid is closer to the look of the Asus Zenbook, though the Folio’s lid has a one direction brushstroke, not circular like Asus’. The bottom has a rubbery grip-feel to it which is actually good news to me, since one of my fears is slightly mishandling a laptop on display, with the floor as mute witness to its destruction: oops, I dropped it. Won’t happen with the Folio 13. The HP ad, the same one on the stage, portrays the lady as pulling out the Folio from her open-top bag – the same kind you bring to market – with neither fear of dropping it nor of grimacing under the strain of the notebook’s weight (I still can’t push myself to keep saying, ‘ultrabook.’ Feels marketing gimmicky.)

The lid opens smoothly, with just the right resistance, unlike some notebooks that may either be too tight or too lose. The screen also showed no wobbling when I repeatedly opened and shut the lid – and looked left and right for the HP staff who were probably eyeing me as a crazy person-dude. I could probably carry this around all day, knowing there’s an SSD on board, and close it to render it asleep and open the lid to wake it up: there’s no old-school harddrive whose spinning I had to wait for. The resume-from-sleep time took maybe two or three seconds. It’s hard to make measurements when I’m enjoying the outdoor launch – it’s beside a swimming pool, so the air clears up your head – and eyeing where the meals would be served.

Smooth Typing, Backlit Keyboard

The keyboard is where the Folio shines for me: there is just that right rubbery feel, the keys aren’t that deep, the finger bounce-backs remind me of typing on a Macbook. The Verge judges the keyboard of the Folio 13 to be better than that on the Lenovo U300, and the key there is the typing comfort PLUS the backlit feature. Pressing F5 lights up the keys although in the dying afternoon outdoor light I couldn’t tell whether the backlight was on – I had to wait until midway through the presentor’s talk on stage (yes, I was the only person lurking amidst the display stands while all were appropriately sitting down and listening) to bring one unit behind a barely lighted area and press F5. It works. There’s no way to adjust the brightness but that’s fine with me.

Okay-Enough Screen, Full-Ports

The screen is passable, as are the viewing angles, but I imagine proper business use won’t include editing raw images, only watching downloaded movies shared with colleagues (not on office time of course). The Folio doesn’t scrimp on ports, it’s got: Ethernet, HDMI, USB 3.0 (1), USB 2.0 (1), headphone/microphone combo jack, and an SD card reader.

Surprisingly Responsive Trackpad

The trackpad is adequately sized (though I wanted it bigger, having used MacBooks) and responsive; and I got to test my usual peeve against Windows notebook trackpads: would the part of my right palm just under my thumb touch the trackpad resulting in jumping cursors? No. I pulled up Notepad and typed away. No cursor jumps at all. But if you happen to have large hands, so that jumps still happen, you can disable the trackpad with two soft taps on the left of the pad.

Battery Life: Good

Another winning feature is the battery life. The Folio flounts that it can go for 9.5 hours, but The Verge review pegs it as around 7 hours. Either way, not bad at all: that’s just around the expected life expectancy of using my iPad (I game a lot so it drains a lot faster). If you’re on the road and are involved with a lot of Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoints, a no-fear-with-all-my-heart-I-trust-you Windows notebook is the way to go. The Folio seems to be that. “Seems” because you never know if a competitor coughs out a better one: they’re all neck to neck on this.

Posh But Geared for Business

The Folio 13 is aimed as business users who probably won’t like the plastic-cheap feel of other ultrabooks that scrimp on specs (like housing only an i3 processor, no backlight, and short battery life). The Folio racks up a “standard” line of specs – 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ i5 Mobile Processor, 4GB DDR3 SDRAM, Mobile Intel® HM65 Express Chipset, 128 GB mSATA SSD, Intel® HD2 Graphics 3000, and comes loaded with Genuine Windows® 7 Professional 64. But it’s really the tactile feel and visual beauty of the device that locks you in (or at least me).

The Folio comes home with you when you shell out P56,000 (it did not come home with me). By coming in after most other OEM’s have shown-and-told their ultrabooks, HP seems to have learned what business user experience elements to focus on.

Regrets: All Mine

I do regret not having monopolized one of the demo units to browse and watch videos for an hour just to check if the underbelly heats up – or if the fan whirs up a scandal.

Speaking of scandals, I did regret not wearing something less noticeable, if only to have a chance at whisking away a demo unit: none of them was chainlocked to the stands. (Tsk tsk for even thinking that! <frowny face> – Art) Anyway, the important thing is that I did not win a Folio: they raffled off two. Can you feel the weight of my longing? (Insert groan here.)

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So overall I am liking the Folio 13 – the feel, the good specs, and the battery life. And do not think for a moment that just because I love the iPad means I can ditch Windows 7 completely. Some of us have tons of work to do in a Windows 7 work-environment, and would appreciate NOT lugging around our monster laptops. To those people, roll up your sleeves and muster the courage to recommend to your bosses the HP Folio 13.

Irwin Allen Rivera

Irwin Allen Rivera

Irwin Allen Rivera loves his wife's cooking so much he's now twice the man he used to be. He and his wife maintain, where you can read the best short fiction in English, by Filipino authors, for free. Irwin's English essay won a Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature in 2012. His philosophical-horror story appears in Philippine Speculative Fiction 8 (2013). He was managing editor and lead writer of Sites and Symbols 2 (2005), a coffee-table book about buildings in UP Diliman - his alma mater (BA Philosophy; MA Creative Writing continuing). He worked at the UP Diliman Information Office before shifting to web content writing full-time. His sudden fiction, "Notwithstanding Pigs," initially a Friendster testimonial, appeared in Philippines Graphic (2006) and in Very Short Stories for Harried Readers (2007).

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